Gavin was suffering from intense feelings of anxiety about Covid 19 when he first started counselling sessions with Michaela at the beginning of lockdown.

Michaela and Gavin worked together over the telephone for several weeks, exploring his fears and anxieties and gradually helping him to find ways of coping.

Turning to his abilities as an accomplished artist Gavin found an original and creative way of working through his feelings and responses to coronavirus. His solution was to create a visual account of his experiences in the form of a pictorial diary.

Now, as lockdown is being lifted, Gavin’s graphic diary provides a fascinating account of his journey, which you can see here.

If you look closely, you will notice that many of the earlier pictures show dark and disturbing scenes, including nightmares and images of fear and despair. However, as time progresses and Gavin begins to feel more in control and more mentally robust, the pictures begin to convey a lighter, more positive mood – showing humour, a sense of hope and a closer connection to family and nature.

Gavin has given his permission for us to share both his pictures and his story, in the hope that they may encourage someone else to explore and discover different ways of dealing with anxiety. Gavin also feels that it is important to encourage open and honest discussion of issues relating to our mental wellbeing.

As well as being a creative and cathartic experience for Gavin, the visual diary provided him with an ideal way of reflecting on his progress and demonstrated how far he had come in his therapeutic journey.

Despite its many challenges, lockdown provided Gavin with an opportunity to reconnect with an aspect of himself which he says he had neglected for many years. For him this was his artistic, creative self.

We can’t all be as talented artists as Gavin, but perhaps we can find our own unique ways of expressing our creativity – helping us to push through our fears and anxieties and arrive at a more positive place.

Many thanks to Gavin for sharing his story.

Mindfulness is something which tends to be thought of as a solitary state, something we cultivate individually rather than in combination with others. It accompanies the act of meditation or a quiet walk alone in the countryside.

But mindfulness can also play an important role in the ways we conduct our relationships, particularly our relationships with those we are closest to. Help in understanding what a mindful relationship might be like, is provided by couples therapist Harvell Hendrix in his well-known self-help book, Getting the Love You Want.

Although he doesn’t use the term ‘mindfulness’, Hendrix draws a distinction between what he calls the unconscious partnership and the conscious partnership.

Where as in an unconscious partnership we are driven thoughtlessly by instincts and emotions that derive from our past, often meaning we default to childhood responses when differences develop between us, in a conscious partnership we take control over those emotions and conduct ourselves in a more self-aware, considered, and caring way.

For Hendrix the unconscious partnership is one which we go through ‘as if we were asleep, engaging in routine interactions that give us little pleasure’. In a conscious partnership on the other hand we are awake to the pleasures, possibilities, comforts and rewards that a long-term relationship can bring.

Being ‘awake’ in the way described here, as opposed to sleepwalking through life, is exactly what mindfulness is all about. The self-help exercises Hendrix offers for couples in his book can be useful in building a more mindful attitude towards one another and to the ways we conduct our partnerships.

The self-help industry has latched onto mindfulness in a big way. Numerous books and now even magazines devote themselves to the topic and trumpet its benefits.

This is no bad thing. We ourselves are strong advocates of mindfulness approaches as a means to help with a range of psychological problems such as anxiety, stress, depression and also relationships.

However, there are a number of ways in which this recent surge of enthusiasm can be misleading, and can diminish the richness of what is in actual fact a long-established practice.

Firstly it can give the impression that mindfulness is a magic cure for all ills. While it can help in many ways, this impression risks overlooking the practical challenges that the actual practice of mindfulness involves.

Mindfulness is grounded, whether we like it or not, in the regular practice of meditation, and this involves a level of self-discipline and commitment which can be difficult to achieve in our busy, driven, media saturated modern world.

Secondly, the amount of literature being generated implies that it is a complicated topic which needs much unravelling. But while the practice may be challenging, the basic concept and technique is really beautifully simple - even if unfamiliar to our modern Western sensibility.

Thirdly, and leading on from the above, the concept of mindfulness originates in the East, or more particularly in the teachings of Buddhism, something that often goes unacknowledged.

It can be helpful to extract what is a psychologically helpful practice from its religious context, which may put off some people. However, this does detract from the richness of the practice by neglecting its spiritual and moral dimensions, reducing it to a skill or a technique.

For Buddhists it is far more than that, being part of a means for achieving spiritual enlightenment and a deeper appreciation of the world and of the universe. It is a practice or a way of life, which Buddhist monks for many thousands of years have spent their whole lives cultivating.

This doesn't mean it can't have huge benefits for us in the West, but the challenges of mindfulness and its deeper riches need to be taken into account and respected if it is not to become just another passing fad.

We will come back to this topic in future blogs.

Contact Us

Message us using our contact form or if you prefer call or text us on:  07523 251 437

Michaela & Julian Gill

Specify whether it is Michaela or Julian you wish to contact.

Tel: 07523 251 437

© 2019 by Julian & Michaela Gill at Whitley Bay Therapy